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Greening Up Your LawnPosted 06/06/08 • Last updated 09/26/11 • 415 views • 0 comments
Love the idea of a green summer lawn as much as you hate the idea of it's environmental cost? Read on for some simple ideas you can put into use to help grow a lawn that will use less water, has fewer weeds and doesn't require chemicals that will cause harmfull runoff or be tracked into your home.
- Raise your lawnmower's height. Taking off more than 1/3 of the height of the grass at any one time will seriously hurt your lawn's ability to photosynthesize. Leaving a taller lawn will not mean you have to mow more frequently. Like all plants, grass relies on it's leaves to produce energy. When too much of that productive area is removed during mowing, the plant races to grow more. A taller lawn will also shade weeds from the life-giving sun.
- Mulch your grass clippings. Use the mower's mulching setting to return extra nutrients to the lawn. If you need the green matter for compost, great! Adding compost to the lawn once per year will greatly improve your soil quality.
- Water infrequently. Only water when the grass leaves start to curl just before they turn brown. By doing this consistently you can train your lawn to grow deeper roots. Deeper roots means that when the upper few inches of soil are very dry, the grass roots will be able to reach the moist layers, while weeds whither and die, unable to grow roots as deep. Also, make sure you water during the coolest part of the day to avoid evaporation (such as between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m.). For deep watering, try the evening hours to give your garden the whole night to absorb.
- Improve your soil quality. You can have your soil pH tested at your local county extension office for free or nearly free. Your lawn's health will improve with the correct pH and sufficent nutrients. Adding sulphur or lime will increase or decrease pH as needed. There are several organic fertilizers available that are completely safe for people and pets. Corn gluten meal is an effective slow-release nitrogen source that also inhibits the germination of weeds. TerraCycle makes a worm poop product that is an excellent source of nitrogen and requires only a hose to apply, although it doesn't inhibit weeds. There are several other organic additives that can be used to improve other aspects of soil quality, like aeration and pH. Note: some products contain "biosolids", code for dehydrated sewage. An excellent source of nitrogen, but not particularly barefoot lawn friendly.
- Purchase electric lawn equipment. Electric trimmers are widely available and perform as well or better than gas models. Several companies make electric lawnmowers, some of which come close to gasoline mowers in terms of performance. Corded models may work well for small, easy-to-navigate lawns- just make sure you don't run over the cord! Battery models may have the advantage for a medium-to-large size lawn if you can purchase extra batteries to have a second one charged and ready. With no oil or gasoline required, electric lawnmowers and trimmers are cheaper and healthier to operate. They are also much quieter, allowing you to mow in the early morning or late evening.
- Hand pull weeds or mow over them frequently. Weeds, like grass, rely on sunlight for food. Frequently removing those leaves will hinder their ability to grow.
- Consider some creative landscaping. While this won't technically improve your lawn itself, it will give you less lawn to worry about, making watering, fertilizing and mowing less expensive and less work. Planting native plants, especially those that use less water will decrease the overall impact of your lawn-related activities.
- Have reasonable expectations. Growing a great lawn organically may take a few years to get great results, and you will not likely ever have Yankee Stadium conditions in the backyard. If you can deal with a few weeds here and there and would like to create a healthier home for yourself, your children, and your pets, the organic approach is for you. If you need a ballpark lawn that glows neon green from the first snowmelt, you may not be ready yet.
Links for more information:
- TerraCycle: Worm poop and other organic lawn products. Plus they have neat re-purposing programs that will pay you for used milk cartons, pop bottles, etc, that are then used to package their products.
- Organic Lawns for America: custom lawn treatments delivered to your door ready for application.
- Compost A to Z: Complete Guide to Composting
- Sources for Corn Gluten Meal
- Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy
- Electrolysis Water Agriculture
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